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Sunset will pay taxes

The City Council also consents to allow to-be-annexed community to keep signage, ban marijuana dispensaries.

November 17, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com

Huntington Beach has decided to levy a utility tax on the residents of Sunset Beach when they are annexed, an action previously thought to be unconstitutional without giving them a vote.

Taking a second look at the laws, the city has determined it must charge Sunset Beach its Utility Users Tax, in addition to all the other taxes Huntington Beach residents pay, said City Atty. Jennifer McGrath.

The city has determined that because it is changing its boundaries to include Sunset Beach, the community has an obligation to pay all the same fees as the rest of Huntington Beach, McGrath said.

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The laws had been previously interpreted that the tax couldn't be imposed on the community without a vote of the people. A vote couldn't take place under the island annexation, which is for incorporated areas smaller than 150 acres and removes the communities' right to protest, so the tax couldn't be levied, it was previously believed.

The city took another look into the laws after a group of Huntington Beach residents, and a separate group of Sunset Beach residents, threatened litigation over the utility tax.

Huntington resident were upset Sunset Beach would receive all the services of Huntington Beach without having to pay the city's Utility Users Tax. The Sunset Beach residents had similar concerns, McGrath has said.

McGrath said it has now been determined that all taxes must be applied equally.

"It's an all-or-nothing approach," she said.

The lack of vote has been an issue for some of the residents, who feel like their constitutional right has been taken away.

Sunset Beach Community Assn. President Greg Griffin spoke against the change at Monday's council meeting. Griffin said he is not in favor of the annexation, but was willing to support it until he found out about the utility tax being levied — the afternoon of the meeting.

"If you're going to impose this tax, we're entitled to a vote," he said.

McGrath said her office had issues conveying the information to the community association.

Councilman Keith Bohr apologized for the information coming out like it did, but said it wasn't a "bait and switch," and other council members agreed.

"It was just confusing advice that we got in the beginning, and that's why we've had to make this decision now," said Mayor Pro Tem Jill Hardy.

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Businesses outlawed

Huntington Beach also approved an agreement with Sunset Beach that keeps much of its identity intact while outlawing marijuana dispensaries and other undesirable businesses.

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